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Friday, January 22, 2010

Making dumb touchscreen phones was a smart move

Mark Bridge writes:

I remember a report from last year that said ‘non-smart’ touchscreen handsets – generally those without a popular operating system – would be bad news for mobile operators.

Conventional touchscreen smartphones tended to result in higher-than-average ARPU thanks to their early-adopting tech-loving users, their web-friendly browsers, their email programs, their app-friendly operating systems and their fast 3G connectivity. However, dumber touchscreen devices – those with a manufacturer’s own proprietary OS and perhaps a clumsier browser – could generate 23% less ARPU than smarter phones.

So, if touchscreen dumbphones weren’t good for networks… and weren’t really good for consumers either… manufacturers wouldn’t really bother with them. Right?

Well, that’s what you might think. That’s certainly what Sony Ericsson thought. It’s just admitted that its year-on-year decrease in both units and sales was mainly due to a downturn in the global handset market and a faster than anticipated shift to touch screen phones in the mid-priced sector of the market.

Uh-oh. Looks like someone’s been pushing cheap touchscreen phones. So who’s been making these lower-range touchscreen phones?  And who’s been buying them?

Well, the answer to the first question really just needs a look at other manufacturers. NokiaLG. Samsung. Others, too.

And the second question?  People who are as influenced by design or colour as by features. People who don’t have the money for a high-end smartphone but still want something that reflects the touchscreen trend. People who don’t care about having an open OS as long as they can get Facebook on their phone. People who, to be honest, may not know what they’re missing.

Which brings us to today’s big question. Is there going to be a consumer backlash against lower-spec devices – “touchscreen phones are rubbish” – or will these budget devices prompt an upgrade to higher-spec smartphones because “next time I’m getting a proper iPhone”?  The answer isn't clear at the moment although I’m sure it'll become obvious later this year. Meanwhile Sony Ericsson, along with its rivals, will be gazing into its crystal ball and striving to produce the devices that both consumers and networks really want.


Author: The Fonecast
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